Leesburg has elected a new mayor for the first time in almost 15 years.
Town voters selected Kelly Burk as their next mayor. She takes over for David Butler, a Town Council member appointed by his peers to fill the unexpired term of Kristen Umstattd in February. Umstattd was first elected Leesburg’s mayor in 2002 and re-elected seven times, placing her in the top five of the town’s longest-serving mayors. She won election last November to serve as the Leesburg District representative on the Board of Supervisors.
But now voters turn to her next elected predecessor, who herself is no stranger to the Leesburg political scene. Burk, currently the town’s vice mayor, was first elected to the council in 2004 and served three years before being elected to the Board of Supervisors as its Leesburg District representative. Defeated in her re-election bid in 2011, she won a special election to fill the unexpired council term of Ken Reid, who had defeated her for the board seat, in the spring of 2012. She won re-election two years later.
She was the runaway winner in the mayor’s race Tuesday, tallying 8,295 votes, followed by former Town Council member Kevin Wright at 5,667 votes and Butler with 5,480. There were 1,459 blank votes in the mayor’s race.
Taking in the victory at Palio Ristorante Italiano, her first words to the crowd of supporters gathered was simply – “wow.”
“I can’t tell you how exciting and how humbling this is,” she said.
The longtime Leesburg resident, who first moved to the town in 1979 and now also has a grandson who also calls Leesburg home, said she sees her election to the mayor’s seat as a continuation of being able to serve town residents: first as council member, then supervisor, and now mayor.
“I have a big task ahead of me,” she admitted. “I’m looking forward to helping to make Leesburg even better than it is now.”
It will be a new looking council for the new mayor, but with some familiar faces. Reid was the top vote-getter with 7,404 votes, followed by Ron Campbell at 7,182, and incumbent council member Tom Dunn, who bested challenger Gwen Pangle by 43 votes, with a total tally of 7,065 votes. Twelve-year council member Katie Sheldon Hammler finished fifth with 6,936 votes, followed by challengers Evan Macbeth with 6,107 votes, and John Hilton with 4,603, according to unofficial results from the Loudoun County Registrar’s Office. There were 15,472 blank votes. Sixty-two percent of Leesburg voters turned out to cast their votes at the polls.
It will mark a return trip to the council for Reid, who served as a council member from 2006 to 2011, before beating Burk for election to the Board of Supervisors. He chose not to run for re-election four years later, when Umstattd won. But a year removed from serving Leesburg, he returns to the council dais.
He pointed to his record of serving Leesburg as a key reason for his victory, not to mention a strong door-to-door campaign. Reid said he is hopeful that the new council will be able to work together, and pointed to the division of council members along political party lines. He predicted that the special election that will be needed to fill the remaining two years of Burk’s council term, which expires Dec. 31, 2018, will be a “slugfest.”
That special election could have a few of the same names on the ballot as Tuesday’s. Hammler did not hesitate to say she is interested in running for that council seat. Pangle also said she plans to give a special election run “some thought.”
Two names you likely won’t see on the ballot are Burk’s opponents. Having been defeated in the mayor’s race, and his re-election bid to the Town Council two years ago, Wright said the results show that it is “time for a fresh face and fresh voice to step up for Leesburg.”
“We ran a good-hearted campaign. There’s not too much we could’ve done differently,” he said. “I left it all on the field.”
Butler said he is retiring from Leesburg politics when he lays down the gavel at the end of the year, but did not rule out other options, like county office. “I will definitely not be a candidate for the special election, and I will not accept an appointment to be interim councilor,” he said.
Butler said he appreciates the 10 years he’s had to help serve the town, and “I feel good about how I was able to help the town move forward.”
Campbell will be one of the council members wrestling with the decision of who to appoint, at least on an interim basis, to fill Burk’s seat. With his election Tuesday, he is the only candidate elected to the council that has not served on the political body previously. But in celebrating his victory Tuesday night, he said that while he doesn’t have political experience, he does have the professional experience needed to serve the community.
“I thank the people of Leesburg for their support in helping to move Leesburg forward,” he said.
Reporter Renss Greene contributed to this story.